Crossing to the other side

imageSo tomorrow is it my turn for a first day. Over the last 8 years it has been my boys turn for first days….at playgroup, at nursery, at school. And tomorrow it is my turn. Not just a first day in my new old job, but a first day in my new role. I am crossing to the other side. But when I say that, I suppose I know I am not crossing, because I am not moving away from what I have been for the last 7 years, merely adding to what I am going to become. I am stepping out of my stay at home mum role to a working mum role. And I can’t wait. And over the years if someone had told me I would be at this stage again, I would have not believed them.

Now before I get into this, I am not sure I am comfortable with the terms ‘Stay at home Mum’ and ‘Working Mum’. For starters, all Mums are working, very hard, to do the best for their children. A Stay at home Mum, is often not at home, because if she has small children, she is most likely in the park, at a playgroup, play-date, baby class or doctors appointment, or if she has school age children, she really won’t be at home because she will be doing everything other than being at home because she is ‘FREEEEE’. A Working Mum has a paid job, but then still works on the other job when she comes home. But I am not sure what other terms could be used to describe us Mums and it is just all too controversial so I will leave it there.

When I worked in my 20’s, I did because that is what we all do, and we have a mortgage and bills to pay. But I always hoped that one day I would find a husband and have babies, and my work days may be numbered. So I got married, and worked up until I had my first child at 30, had a year off then went back to work on a 3 days a week basis. I found this particularly hard. Firstly I found the managing of two roles hard. The 3 days a week I was at work, I really wanted to be at home with my baby. Then the 2 days at home I felt like I was not really giving it all to being a mum as I was out of the routine of being a full on mum, and would worry about the work I had to do when I went back to the work. And I suppose what was more likely was that secondly, I hoped to have baby number 2, and then be at home again.

However, as we know, baby number 2 became babies numbers 2, 3 and 4, and at my first scan, I was thrilled when I was advised to give up work as soon as possible. That was it. I had reached that point where I felt it was acceptable to not work anymore. I could become a stay at home mum. And given the fact I was to have 4 children under 2, any discussions of me returning to work became silly not just in terms of child care costs, but the logistics just made our heads go crazy.

So 6 years ago, when my babies were nearly one, and toddler boy was 2 years and 8 months, I formally resigned. And I was happy with the decision that my job was now to bring up these boys.

However, now it turns out that after 2 years of school days and realising the boys don’t need me in the holidays as much and that they want more, I have come full circle and the ‘Oh I would NEVER go back to work again’ has actually turned into ‘Oh my god I just HAVE to get that job again’.

And I have now worked out why. Why when I never wanted to, am I desperate to now, and the reason is clear. It is because of the challenge. It is because of the need to do something. To push yourself. To keep going.

I always said if we had had 2 children, I probably would have gone back to work, then hopefully had another baby, then maybe stopped work. Maybe we would have had another. But I know this. I would have carried on until I felt challenged. Having 4 under 2 challenged me. It made me feel alive. I remember in the early days having my shower in the morning, working out what order I was going to do things that day, which jobs to do when, which batches of food I was going to do during afternoon naps, setting myself little targets. True I am slightly crazy and ran my house like a ship, with a process for everything. But that’s just the way I am. I have never been one to sit down.

These days I usually have my shower after a gym class, between meeting up with friends for a coffee, house work and rushing around the supermarkets on my price comparison frenzy missions. So now I need something else to get that sense of achievement from. And it is time for that to come in the way of my career again.

Over the years, when the boys have been ‘messing around’ (to put it politely), I look at them with disappointment thinking ‘Is this the best I have done?’, ‘Is this what I have given up my career for?’, because if so, maybe I shouldn’t have bothered…. I honestly thought I had given up my career and had written myself off. That I had made a choice. But it seems that some people think I hadn’t.  So if you like me, think you may have had a few years too many off, well maybe you haven’t. During the last 6 years, I have kept up to date with things, kept in contact with people, to keep me in the know. And these days there is a big drive to get women who have had maybe more time at home with their families than was previously acceptable, to get us back into work. Because at the end of the day, we still have those skills we had before we had our families, and now we have a whole host more. The speed at which I can have a conversation and get to the point is amazing, after years of not knowing how long I have to get my words out. My multi-tasking skills are extraordinary.  I have a new found confidence, which I realised during recent interviews. And I am able to prioritise what is important, and hopefully can be better at leaving certain things in the office rather than bringing them into the home.

So I am not pretending it is not going to be hard. I am not naive in thinking I will just be able to slip back into it. And once again, this is something that needs to be taken on as a team. Just like it was when I had three babies in one go. Luckily my husband sees that we have equal rights to work and equal responsibilities for our boys. That when I say I don’t want to be hanging around in the kitchen waiting for him to come home any more, that sometimes I want to be the second one home, that he understands. And I want my boys to see that it is possible for their Mummy to have two roles too. I want them to accept that their future wives or partners will also have the right to have different roles over their lives, just as much as it is their right to too.

So here we go. Off for the first week (well 4 days, steady). But do you know what I am looking forward to most… To having that spring in my step again on a Friday because it is the end of the week. To collapsing on the sofa on a Friday night shattered, because I haven’t had that for 2 or 3 years. For having that Sunday night feeling, to give the week some definition…and for having that challenge, for getting a sense of achievement …..

So as a Stay at home mum, it’s over and out.

Get set…

 

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Preparing milks

As I mentioned in ‘On your marks…’, the feeding routine was the most important thing to the babies and the most time consuming this for us. In order to follow the milk routine, you need to have a swift effective milk preparation routine. Whilst preparing the milks for the awaiting feed, I would ensure the bottles for the next feed had been sterilised and were waiting in the steriliser (they keep sterile in there for a few hours), and the bottles for the feed after that were stacked in a Tupperware ready for transfer to the steriliser. So I was thinking two feeds ahead. It is always good to have a few of the sterilising bags handy as at times you would go to prepare the bottles from the steriliser only to find a teat missing, so the bags are quite handy to have in such instances. (You can get these in packs from Boots, and just pop the bag with the bottle bits in the microwave for a minute or how ever long it states).

You also need to ensure you have cooled boiled water. Get another kettle. You can have one for your needs, and keep one separate to make up the babies’ milk. Fill it to the top, boil it once, then check after each feed if you have enough for the next. All quite straight forward, but necessary for an efficient process.

Make sure you have enough formula milk (if you are using this) in stock. We did a weekly online shop and were buying seven tubs a week of £8 formula milk (this was 7 years ago, it is £10 a tub now). ‘First’ formula milk does not qualify for discounts and loyalty points as someone somewhere is concerned that this would detract from the promotion of breast feeding as the best way to feed a baby. I found this particularly annoying and somewhat insulting. The choice of whether to breast or formula feed a baby is the mother’s decision and I think the majority of mothers would not be swayed by the price of formula milk as to whether to breast or bottle feed. When buying seven tubs of formula milk a week for £8 each for the first few months, a bit of a discount or some loyalty points would have softened the blow. I often question why baby food is allowed to be on offer and attract loyalty points when it is clear that home-made food is better.

When adding the powder, I found it easier to count aloud. You can be adding up to eight scoops of formula, into three bottles. You need to focus. There is nothing more irritating than worrying if you have added too much or too little to a bottle and having to start again, or worry about the decision you took of not starting again – has that baby had an extra scoop, or not enough.

Each bottle can be heated to the required body temperature in the microwave, and tested to check it is not too hot on your wrist. The boys occasionally would have bottles that weren’t as warm as they could be. This is good. You do not want a baby who is fussy about having their milk at a particular temperature. I recall instances when out with friends and babies when I just had a singleton, and some babies would not be happy if their milk was not the right temperature. This really isn’t something you can let a baby get away with when you have more than one to think about. Milk should not be reheated, and we generally had a rule that it was discarded after an hour.

We had the added complications of vitamin supplements for the boys for the first few weeks given that they were premature. The SCBU advised that they should be having these for ten weeks but after consultation with my GP, the boys stopped these at six weeks. These just added another process by having to add different amounts of three different vitamins with a sterilised syringe to the bottle of each feed.

How many bottles do you need? We had 12. You need to keep on top of your bottle washing and quite often can have nine to do in the morning.

Teat sizes

We used Tommee Tippee Closer To Nature bottles which I used for my singleton. I never had any problems with these and thought they were great. Teats come in different sizes, 1-3. Babies normally start with size 1 for a slow steady flow. These require a good strong suck. If your baby is doing well with a size 1, try a size 2. The milk comes faster but they may be able to take it, just watch for the amount of wind and posset after as a sign that they may not be ready. We were able to move our boys to size 2 then 3 quite quickly and this speeded up the milk process rapidly.

So once you have the process in place, you are good to go…..

From the Kitchen to the Meeting Room

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Ok, so in my quest to find my ‘somebody’ again (which was actually quite brief – I really am most efficient), I have found myself a job, which is really quite exciting not just for me, but for the family as a whole.

My boys are excited because they have been wanting to go to the after school club for ages. My husband is excited as not only will I be bringing in some pennies, I may have actually have something a bit more interesting to say. (He has had more than enough evenings when he has come home to my analysis of prices of groceries between supermarkets. I like to take a cucumber or chicken breasts as my benchmark for price comparisons between the major supermarkets, and as we spend an absolute fortune on food, which will only increase as my boys start having a loaf of bread, half a box of shreddies and 2 yogurts for breakfast each, I have in recent months taken it upon myself to reduce the bill. Great, but maybe my analysis and presentation of this was maybe taking it a bit far… hence why I need to go back to work).

And my parents are excited about this as they will be spending more time with their grandsons… So for now, it does seem like a win/win situation (is it ok to use that phrase?)

So anyway, as I say, I have a job. And I am proud to say I will be practising my accountancy and audit skills again. At tea time on the day of an interview, my eldest remembered what I had been doing that day ‘Oh how did your interview go Mummy?’. ‘Oh thank you for remembering, son, it went very well, and in fact Mummy has a job’. Cue inter-son discussions (arguments) on which days they can go to the after school club depending on which friends go on which days. Then back to me. ‘That’s good Mummy. What job will you be doing?’. ‘Well, I am an accountant son, looking at numbers ’. ‘Oh. Could you be a policeman instead?’. ‘No. Just get on and eat your tea’.

And looking at my boys sitting there and eating their tea, in the kitchen, having a great time, (because with that many children at a meal, every meal time is pretty much like a party) I started to think would I get this when I am back at work.  Are there any similarities between being sat around this table in a feeding frenzy, or waiting in the kitchen for pudding requests, to sitting around a table with colleagues with my work hat on, or meeting with clients.

And luckily I don’t think I have found any.

  1. People will turn up to a meeting or presentation when it is due to start. I will not have to shout around the office, rounding them up, battling with ‘When I have finished this level’….
  2. I will not have to ask people to sit properly on their chairs. They will sit in a ‘normal chair seated position’, and not lean back, forever banging the chairs on the wall and messing up the paintwork.
  3. When food is placed down (such as biscuits), there will not be a scrap for the best ones, often involving mounting the table, and allocating out the biscuits completely until everyone has an equal number.
  4. There will not be tears or a fuss over the broken biscuit
  5. People will stir their tea QUIETLY, and not bang the spoon on the tea cup or saucer, just to see what noise it makes, look at me whilst doing it to wait for me to ‘POP’, or not realise they are doing it
  6. I will not have to ask everyone if they have washed their hands, and follow this up with a sniff of the hands to check they smell of soap if I suspect lying.
  7. If someone needs to go to the toilet, they will just get up a go at a suitable moment, not telling me they are off for a ‘poo poo’. And I won’t get the ‘Can you help me wipe my bottom’ call 2 minutes later.
  8. There will be no ‘bodily wind excretion’ noises (i.e. no burps or trumps), resulting in sniggers and a ten minute discussion on how I don’t like the use of certain words (when I was little, the ‘f-word’ was considered rude, but thanks to Despicable Me, it is now considered appropriate, and I have just lost the battle with that one).
  9. There will be no teasing or winding up about latest love interests.
  10. People will not speak if someone else is speaking, and will wait for an appropriate break to ask a question.
  11. They will not all get the giggles, which they just can’t stop, and I won’t have to send anyone out and not let them back in until they can behave.
  12. If someone disagrees with something another attendee is saying, it will either be left unsaid, or resolved by discussion, not by getting up off a chair and giving the person a swift slap.
  13. At the end, I will not have to tidy away, and get the dustbuster out to hoover up the crumbs (in fact, there won’t be any crumbs).
  14. People will get up at the end of the meeting, and thank me for my efforts. I will not have to call them back, and ask them if they have something to say.

 

Doesn’t that sound wonderful. I just hope I remember that I am not in the kitchen, and in fact in a meeting room…no rolling of the eyes if someone says something inappropriate, no muttering under my breath if someone asks me for something……

On your marks……

The home coming

When my babies were 19 days old, we drove our little family van to the hospital, loaded up with three car seats and the pushchair chassis.

I dressed the boys in their nice complementing three pack of baby-gros, matching blue fleeces (the only thing I have ever bought three identical of) and we popped them into their car seats. My husband carefully manoeuvred the chassis loaded up with our babies in their car seats around the SCBU to say goodbye (‘Crikey does that pushchair have a steering wheel?’) and we were free. Come on boys. Let’s go home and have some fun.

The boys came home on a four hourly feeding routine of six feeds a day at 2pm, 6pm, 10pm, 2am, 6am and 10am. Whilst the time in SCBU had been hard, the nurses had done a wonderful job of setting the boys into a nice feeding routine for us. We just needed to follow it. The journey home was somewhat stressful with a few howlers along the way, but before long we had three car seats plonked in the lounge and they were home. We were now a family of six.

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On your marks…

The boys’ key needs for the first few weeks were milk, sleep and nappy changes. They did not need anything else. They came home at their 38 week stage, and they did not need to be rushed into anything.

Feeding the boys was a process. It was the most important thing for them, and the most time consuming thing to us. We had to maintain the routine set by the nurses. The boys had been happy in this routine in hospital. We needed to stick to our side of the deal. We soon had the ‘milk’ process in slick working order. This is the key. Keep to the boys’ milk routine and they would be happy.

When we arrived home we went straight into the 6pm feed. I attempted to breast feed two on the sofa with my (not so) E-zee twin feeding cushion, whilst my husband bottle fed the other. All babies seemed to have enough milk to keep them going to their next feed, due at 10pm.

Daily set- up

DSC01943During the day the boys were to stay in the lounge. I put a stair gate over the door so toddler boy could not go in unless accompanied. My original plan of using Moses baskets was soon surpassed as firstly I didn’t want to be bending down too much and secondly, the babies were too exposed for their big brother. Even if you have a sweet well behaved child, never leave them alone with access to a baby. So we assembled a cot in the lounge and this was where the babies would sleep during the day.

Also in the lounge I had a basket of clean vests and baby-gros, sheets, muslins and a changing box – wedge changing mat (with old towel as a cover), nappies, nappy bags (larger ones so you can fit three nappies into one bag), nappy cream, a tupperware of cotton wool (lid on, woe betide you if a two year old gets hold of the cotton wool), a small bowl of water for nappy changes, kitchen roll and anti-bacterial spray.

In the first few weeks we followed the process the SCBU had followed which was when doing ‘cares’ (or nappy changes), change the baby before its milk. If a baby needed a nappy change between feeds, we would wait until it was milk time. This seems harsh but SCBU did this as they had lots of babies to look after. I was concerned that if we went out of this routine at home, an impromptu mid-feed nappy change could imply to the baby that it was to follow with a bottle, when in fact it could have an hour or two to go. Obviously this may be different in different neonatal units or if the baby has a sore bottom, but we were comfortable following the pattern for a few weeks.

As soon as the babies came home we started playing classical music in the lounge whilst they were sleeping during the day. I found this helped the soothing environment in the lounge, and the babies had background noise, so that if one was to wake crying, hopefully this wouldn’t disturb the others. Also, their time in SCBU had been noisy from the hustle and bustle in the day time. Over the years I have never worried about making a noise for all my babies. I could even vacuum up to their beds when they were taking naps when they were older, and this very rarely stirred them, and if it did, they were able to settle again. In a busy house, there is not time to not be busy. There is no time to tip toe around a sleeping baby.

Night time set-up

Before you bring your brood home, have a think about where you want everyone to sleep. As I mentioned before, we set up a cot in the lounge for day time naps where the babies would sleep vertically, with a stair gate at the lounge door to prevent unwanted toddler access. Perfect.

We then had a second cot in our bedroom where the babies would again sleep vertically, swaddled, as they were in hospital.

The noise the babies made on their first night home was amazing. We could not sleep because of it. Obviously we had not spent the night with all three before. They were so noisy. If one made a noise, they would all make a similar noise. Bizarre, amazing and just very, very special.